Mama’s Meatballs

Growing up in Brooklyn, New York Sunday was the day most Italians would savor a traditional gravy dinner.  This is not the kind of gravy for dipping biscuits.  I'm talking about a pot of tomato sauce that had been simmered for hours, slowly marrying the flavors of garlic, onions, basil, tomatoes and a variety of meat, of which each family had their own combination.  Meatballs, though, are the one common denominator.  While recipes may vary, meatballs are the one component of "gravy" that every family makes.

My nana's meatballs were coveted in our family.  In fact, I still remember the pink and white speckled skillet she used to fry them.  After she died, the torch was passed down to my aunt, along with that skillet.  Her meatballs were crisp when fresh from the frying pan and became melt-in-your-mouth tender after hours of cooking slowly in the sauce.  Getting an invitation to Sunday dinner at Aunt Barbara's was something I eagerly awaited. Sadly, my aunt had an aneurysm a few years ago and she hasn't been near the stove since. It reminded me how important it is to record these edible heirlooms. Hopefully my girls will cherish this blog and the memories I'm leaving them here. 

Since I never got my nana or my aunt's recipe, I've created my own over the years, and settled on one that's a favorite with family and friends. While my family used pure ground beef, I like to use a combination of pork and beef.  Flying Pigs Farm sells ground pork at the Grand Army Plaza and Union Square farmer's markets here in NYC. I also make my own using the meat-grinder attachment on my Cuisinart Stand Mixer.   Stew, sirloin and brisket cuts work best when making your own ground beef, and be sure to ask your butcher to leave it untrimmed (meaning, keep the fat).  You can control just how much fat you want to use but don't skimp on it.  When the fat cooks, it breaks down and adds the moistness everyone loves.  Shoulder butt is good for making fresh ground pork and the same advice goes for buying it untrimmed.

There's nothing like a simmering pot of marinara sauce, so check out my I Say Tomato post if you're in the market for a good one.  You can substitute canned tomatoes since the season is still a bit a way, but don't rush the simmering stage…it'll be worth the wait. 

Mama's Meatballs

Makes 24

My first venture into blogging began with the The Mama Chronicles, which is how these got their name.  Aside from the obvious health benefit of baking instead of frying, these meatballs also require less work since you don't have to stand over a hot skillet.  

1 pound fresh ground beef

1 pound fresh ground pork

½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

¼ cup parsley, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 large eggs

4 1-inch thick pieces of crusty bread, soaked in water & drained

3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

½ teaspoon salt 

Preheat over to 425º. Add all ingredients to a large bowl and use your hands to mix well until everything is combined.  Shape into 24 equal size balls. Place meatballs on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray or olive oil.  Bake for 30 minutes, or until well browned and cooked through.  Serve hot or add to sauce and let simmer until ready to serve.

Sicilian-Style Meatballs

Makes 24

Currants and pine nuts guest star in this southern-Italian
version.  If you have trouble getting dried currants, you can substitute raisins.

1 pound fresh ground beef

1 pound fresh ground pork

½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

¼ cup Italian flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 large eggs
½ cup dried currant or raisins

¼ cup pine nuts

Four 1-inch thick pieces of crusty bread, soaked in water & drained

3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

½ teaspoon salt 

Preheat over to 425º. Add all ingredients to a large bowl and use your hands to mix well until everything is combined.  Shape into 24 equal size balls. Place meatballs on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray or olive oil.  Bake for 30 minutes, or until well browned and cooked through.  Serve hot or add to sauce and let simmer until ready to serve.

Related Links

Greek Meatballs – Simply Recipes

Escarole & Orzo Soup with Meatballs – Smitten Kitchen

Simple & Delicious: Spaghetti and Meatballs – Savory Sweet Life

Uncategorized

Comments

  • Jen Schall @ My Kitchen Addiction: Absolutely beautiful! Beautiful story about growing up and enjoying this traditional dish!

  • meatballs: Yummy, I prefer the Mama’s meatballs, and I tried this recipe last night, it is really amazing that the combination of pork and beef works so well with the cheese and tomato that added. Also I did add some raisins while cooking. I served my meatballs with my favorite sauce and it is a really nice dinner last night. Thank you for sharing :D

Add a comment